India struck back in the second session to peg Australia to 180 for three at tea on Day Two of the third Test after the visitors dominated the first session.
David Warner and Ed Cowan had taken lunch at 109 for no loss and looked good to put on a big partnership on the flat pitch at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium. They put on 30 more runs in the second session and were looking almost invincible on a track that ceased to assist the bowlers. Enter the part-timer, Ravindra Jadeja.
To call the Saurashtra all-rounder a part-timer would be unjust given his exploits in this series so far. With five wickets in Chennai and six in Hyderabad, Jadeja had promoted himself to MS Dhoni’s second-choice spinner after Ravichandran Ashwin. The Australians have found his tight line and deceiving left-arm spin puzzling and rather perilous.
In the 12th over after lunch, Jadeja brought the swift Australian momentum from the first session to a stop as he dismissed Warner and Michael Clarke on successive deliveries. First to go was Warner (71), who was looking good for a big hundred. Jadeja, bowling around the wicket and spinning into the left-hander, found the bat-pad that looped up into the air long enough for Dhoni to run in from behind the stumps to take the catch.
Skipper Clarke, after suspending four of his players for the match, including vice-captain Shane Watson, promoted himself above the regular No 3, Phil Hughes. It was only the second time in his 91-Test career that Clarke had come one-down. Clarke had hinted he would do so in one of his several pre-match interviews, in a bid to provide solidity to the top order. The experiment, however, did not provide the required result as he was stumped first ball off Jadeja's bowling after charging down the track in his usual aggressive instinct. It was the eighth time that Clarke had been stumped in his career, five out of which were against India. It was also the Australian captain’s second golden duck in his career; coincidentally, the first occurrence was also against India at the SCG in 2008.
After a fruitless first session which leaked more than a hundred runs, India’s efforts for the first hour after lunch made for better reading — 26 runs and two wickets. Dhoni was operating Jadeja and Ashwin in tandem and the duo were doing a terrific job in containing the Australians. While Jadeja kept things tight from his end, Ashwin flighted it up and invited the batsmen to take the risks and play their shots, increasing the chances of taking wickets. Funnily enough, though, it was Jadeja who was flourishing in the wickets column in Mohali.
India’s confidence grew with the two wickets as they hunted around for more. Virat Kohli, filling in for the dropped Virender Sehwag at first slip, then spilled a chance off Pragyan Ojha. The left-armer, back into the playing XI after sitting out the first two Tests was being pushed to the sidelines by Ashwin and Jadeja and looked rather deflated.
However, the Hyderabad lad finally got into the thick of things in the last 30 minutes of the session as he scalped the struggling Hughes (2). Bowling around the wicket, Ojha's delivery spun away down the leg side as Hughes tried to work it towards fine-leg. However, he could only find a faint edge as Dhoni, sharp as ever, pounced on it to take the catch.
Australia thus lost three wickets in 14 overs for just 12 runs. It took a spirited 29-run partnership between Cowan and Steven Smith to take Australia into the break without further damage.
Brief Scores: Australia 180 for 3 (Ed Cowan 76*, David Warner 71; Ravindra Jadeja 2 for 37) vs India.
First Published: March 15, 2013, 2:15 pm